Archives For VOLUME 2

 

A Brief Review of

Dom Helder Camara:
Essential Writings
.
Edited by Francis McDonagh.

Paperback: Orbis Books, 2009.
Buy now: [ Amazon ]

Reviewed by Chris Smith.


DOM HELDER CAMARA: ESSENTIAL WRITINGSEqual parts prophet, priest and poet, Dom Helder Camara was one of the twentieth century’s most striking voices in the cry against the excesses of Western culture.  Unfortunately, today as the crises brought on by our excessive lifestyles in the West only continue to escalate, the life and work of this Brazilian priest is not known well enough.  Thankfully, however, Orbis Books — who has long been the primary publisher of Camara’s works in English translation — has released a wonderful introduction, one of the newest volumes in their “Modern Spiritual Masters” Series.  Dom Helder Camara: Essential Writings was edited by Francis McDonagh, who also wrote a useful introduction to the book, which offers a brief biography and begins to frame a context in which Camara can be understood.  After McDonagh’s introduction, the remainder of the book consists of excerpts from Camara’s works, organized thematically.  The four dimensions of Camara’s writings into which the excerpts here are organized are “A Church of Service and Poverty, “From Paternalism to Liberation,” “Walking with God” and “The Unity of Creation.”  Even those readers who are familiar with the social justice dimensions of Camara’s prose works, might be not be familiar with Camara’s poetic works, many of which embrace themes of unity and peace with creation.  McDonagh provides an excellent introduction to these poetic works in the fourth and final chapter of the book.  Consider this excerpt, for instance, from the poem “Brother Birds”:

Continue Reading…

 

Jonathan Brink Reflects on
John Franke’s Manifold Witness, The Plurality Of Truth
For The Emergent Village website

http://www.emergentvillage.com/weblog/brink-response-manifold-witness

It’s not often that you run into a book that explores a deep tension within the church in such a succinct way, that you say, “I wish I had written that.” But John Franke has done just that.

Franke recently released, “Manifold Witness, The Plurality Of Truth” by Abingdon Press, a book that wrestles with the nature of truth and its apparent contradiction of plurality. How can truth be plural? Franke offers what is arguably one of the better responses to the common tension in the church as it grapples the shifting landscape towards postmodern culture.

Franke’s central thesis is,

“the expression of biblical and orthodox Christian faith is inherently and irreducibly pluralist.” (p.7)

At first glance, this kind of statement can be seen as a defense for cultural relativism. In other words, it seems like Franke is arguing for the idea that truth is relative. And if you close the book there, you’ll be missing out on a deeply informed argument away from this very idea.

Read the full review:
http://www.emergentvillage.com/weblog/brink-response-manifold-witness

Manifold Witness, The Plurality Of Truth.
John Franke.

Paperback: Abingdon, 2009.
Buy now:  [ Amazon ]


Powells Books Reviews
Battling to the End: Conversations with Benoit Chantre
by Rene Girard

http://www.powells.com/blog/?p=12259

In Laurel and Hardy’s Big Business, two door-to-door Christmas tree salesmen fight a bad-tempered homeowner. The manic tit-for-tat escalates from head banging to a demolished house and an exploded car. The three become more and more alike as their wiggy violence spirals without aim or purpose.

It’s funny because we know that that’s the way we are, from the cradle. You hit your brother; he hits back; you hit again, only harder. Aggressor and aggrieved become interchangeable, indistinguishable, and parents know there is little point in trying to figure out “who started it.”

As the Stanford scholar Rene Girard observes in the book-length interview Battling to the End, “The aggressor has always already been attacked” and so feels justified. Look at the Middle East.

But what if violence goes unchecked? “This is an apocalyptic book,” Girard states at the outset. The more probable such an endgame becomes, “the less we talk about it.”

Read the full review:
http://www.powells.com/blog/?p=12259

Battling to the End: Conversations with Benoit Chantre
(Studies in Violence, Mimesis, and Culture).

Rene Girard
.
Paperback: Michigan State Univ. Press, 2009.
Buy now: [ Amazon ]

2009 Englewood Honor Books

December 31, 2009

 

2009 in Review:
Englewood Honor Books
The Best Books of the Year
for the Life of the Church

2009 has been a good year here at the Englewood Review, and as the year draws to a close, it is fitting that we thank God for all those who partnered with us this year: for all the authors who keep writing excellent works and challenging us all, for all the publishers that have worked with us, for all the reviewers who have worked diligently to read, reflect upon and review the books we assign, but most of all for our readers, who keep reading and responding with words of encouragement and support. We have read (or excerpted) almost 250 books this year, most of which have been very good – we try not to waste our time or anyone else’s with bad or even mediocre books – but we offer to you here the best of the best, our honor books for 2009.

It is important to emphasize that our criterion both for selecting books to review and for honoring the year’s best books is to choose books that are “for the life of the Church” – i.e., books that energize us to be the community of God’s people that God has called us to be and that nurture our mission of following in the way of God’s reconciliation of all things (in all its broadness!).

Award Categories include:

*** See the full article here! ***

*** Click for 2008’s Best Books ***

 

2009 Englewood Book of the Year

David Dark - Sacredness of Questioning Everything

The Sacredness of
Questioning Everything.

David Dark.
Paperback:
Zondervan, April 2009.
Buy now:
[
ChristianBook.com ]

Few writers have the capacity that David Dark has, to orchestrate familiar stories from literature and popular culture as part of engaging theological discourse. In his new book The Sacredness of Questioning Everything, David emphasizes that questioning, and more broadly that conversation, is an essential practice in the life of the Church. Certainly, his words rang true to us here at Englewood Christian Church, as conversation has been one of the defining practices of our church community.

“In SACREDNESS, Dark champions the power — and the spiritual necessity — of the open mind. Asking questions of our convictions, assumptions, perversions, religions, is the only way to let the light and air into them. ‘There is a crack in everything. That’s how the light gets in,’ he maintains, using Leonard Cohen’s words. Questioning our God(s), our government, our eschatology, our language or our lusts, opens them to the possibility of rehabilitation, redemption and ultimately resurrection.” (from our review)

Indeed, conversation is fundamental to our identity as the community of God’s people, relating to one another and to God. It is a lost art that must be recovered and Dark skillfully navigates the complexity of life in conversation and we would do well to follow his lead.


Click here to see our 2008 Book of the Year…

 

2009

Englewood

Honor Books


*** Best Poetry Volume ***

Leavings: Poems.
By Wendell Berry.
Hardcover: Counterpoint, 2009.
Buy now: [ Amazon ]

These new poems enlarge the possibilities of Berry’s vision and work, always clarifying language, interweaving art and work with land and life, and describing glimpses of the Kingdom of God as it is embodied in the Kentucky hills. As Berry writes, “Hope / then to belong to your place by your own knowledge / of what it is that no other place is.”

[ Read our full review… ]

Pluriverse: New and Selected Poems.
Ernesto Cardenal.

Paperback: New Directions, 2009.
Buy now: [ Amazon ]

These collected poems span 60 years of Cardenal’s writing, considering at various turns the particularities of the Nicaraguan landscape to the complexities of quantum models of the universe. The intricacies of Cardenal’s poems always suggest the wonderful interconnectedness of the whole creation, informed by years as a poet/priest/revolutionary in his native Nicaragua.

[ Read our full review… ]

Shop Class as Soulcraft:
An Inquiry into
the Value of Work.

Matthew Crawford
Hardback:
The Penguin Press, 2009.
Buy now: [ Amazon ]

Following in the tradition of one of last year’s honor books, Richard Sennett’s The Craftsman, Crawford masterfully forms a case for the importance of manual labor. “It’s the capacity to probe the writings of Iris Murdoch or Martin Heidegger and the workings of a late-model Kawasaki liter-class sport bike that make Crawford so interesting to read.”

[ Read our full review… ]

*** Best Novel ***

Eve: A Novel of the First Woman.
Elissa Elliott.
Hardcover:
Delacorte, 2009.
Buy now: [ Amazon ]

Although we admittedly don’t review a lot of fiction, we are slowly increasing the number of novels we do review. Elissa Eliott’s poignant debut novel Eve, enthralled us like no other novel this year. “Following in the footsteps of Buechner and those of writers like Flannery O’Connor, Nikos Kazantzakis and Walker Percy, Elliott creates a world of deep and twisted brokenness, and yet one that is saturated with an even deeper hope.”

[ Read our full review… ]

*** Best Biography ***

Flannery: A Life of Flannery O’Connor.
Brad Gooch.

Hardcover:
Little, Brown & Co., 2009.
Buy now: [ Amazon ]

Brad Gooch has offered a gem of a book in his deeply-researched biography of one of our favorite writers, Flannery O’Connor.

[ Read our full review… ]

Empire of Illusion:
The End of Literacy and the Triumph of Spectacle.

Chris Hedges.

Hardback: Nation Books, 2009.
Buy now: [ Amazon ]

Hedges takes our present shadow politics, economics, and entertainment industries and holds them up in the light to suggest that mostly we have been captivated by illusions, stuck back in Plato’s cave. World Wrestling Entertainment, the $10 billion US porn industry, our “permanent war economy,” and “participatory fascism” are indicting critiques of the American brand of Empire, based largely on illusion, and Hedges exposes these caricatures for what they are.

[ Read our full review… ]

Green Metropolis:
Why Living Smaller, Living Closer,
and Driving Less Are the Keys to Sustainability
.
David Owen.

Hardback: Riverhead, 2009.
Buy now: [ Amazon ]

An important revision of ‘green’ technologies and sustainability, which offers an apologetics for dense urban places as the ‘greenest’ places we have. Building on Jane Jacobs’ descriptions of population density and diversity, Owens re-narrates conversations about urban sustainability, positing New York City as “the greenest city in the United States.”

[ Read our full review… ]

Enough:
Contentment in An Age of Excess

Will Samson.

Paperback: David C. Cook, 2009.
Buy now: [ ChristianBook.com ]

After the economic crashes last year, 2009 offered us the opportunity to reflect on the consumerism that led us into this economic mess, and no book spoke more lucidly on the problem of consumerism in our churches than Will Samson’s Enough.

[ Read our full review… ]

[ Interview with Will ]

A Conservationist Manifesto.
Scott Russell Sanders.
Paperback:
Indiana Univ. Press, 2009.
Buy now: [ Amazon ]

A Conservationist Manifesto is a rich book and like a rich wine or rich dessert, it is meant to be savored. Sanders sees beyond the mass destruction of consumerism and prophetically calls us to the redemptive work of conserving creation and connecting deeply with our neighbors and the places in which we live.”

[ Read our full review… ]

*** Best Theology Book ***

Desiring The Kingdom:
Worship, Worldview and Cultural Formation
.

James K.A. Smith.
Vol. 1- Cultural Liturgies Series
Paperback: Baker Academic, 2009.
Buy now: [ ChristianBook.com ]

We are all motivated by some vision of “the kingdom,” and our desires of it largely motivate how we understand and inhabit the world; Smith describes formative rituals, practices, and liturgies from the mall to the Eucharist, showing all cultural institutions as some form of liturgy, and enlarging the language of liturgy to encompass the immanence of the kingdom of God.

[ Read our full review… ]

Wendell Berry and Religion:
Heaven’s Earthly Life
.
Edited by Joel James Shuman and L. Roger Owens.

Hardback: University Press of Kentucky, 2009.
Buy now: [ Amazon ]

Certainly, any book about Wendell Berry and Christianity is bound to attract our attention, but our imaginations were ignited by this book’s broad vision of the applicability of Berry’s work to Christian Social Ethics.

[ Read our full review… ]

God’s Economy:
Redefining the Health and Wealth Gospel
.

Jonathan Wilson-Hartgrove.
Paperback: Zondervan, 2009.
Buy now: [ ChristianBook.com ]

For the second year in a row, Jonathan Wilson-Hartgrove has written a book that landed on our list of best books. Few books have celebrated God’s abundant provision and our call to generosity as eloquently and as compellingly as God’s Economy.

[ Read our full review… ]

[ Read a 28 page excerpt… ]

*** See the runners up and
our other award books here…
***

 

“Living the Incarnation”

A Review of
Wendell Berry and Religion:
Heaven’s Earthly Life

Edited by
Joel James Shuman and L. Roger Owens.

Reviewed by Ragan Sutterfield.

Wendell Berry and Religion:
Heaven’s Earthly Life
.
Edited by Joel James Shuman and L. Roger Owens.

Hardback: University Press of Kentucky,  2009.
Buy now: [ Amazon ]

Wendell Berry and ReligionWendell Berry has been in the news a lot these days from his visit to Washington with fellow agrarian agitators to Michael Pollan’s homage to Berry in The Nation’s food issue.  This attention is very good on the one hand, it is certainly a welcome development that more people are reading Berry and heeding his call to eat locally, but there is certainly cause to worry about this new attention.  The worry is that Berry will be painted, as many have already done, as a “father of the local food movement”—a key voice in a big trend.  Berry has written some of the best critiques of the industrial agricultural system and he has certainly advocated eating local food grown by farmers one knows, but Berry, as a thinker and writer, is concerned with problems and ways of living much bigger than any movement (a reduction he himself critiqued in his essay “In Distrust of Movements”).  It would be a tragedy if Berry’s legacy were to be left to the advocates of local food alone.

Thankfully we don’t need to worry too much about such a reduction because Joel Shuman and Roger Owens have put together a varied and deep collection of essays that engage Berry with the full complexity and breadth his work requires.  Wendell Berry and Religion: Heaven’s Earthly Life has been a long time in the making and it is a book that is still unfinished.  That’s a good thing, because as Joel Shuman writes in the introduction, this book represents “contributions to an ongoing conversation” with Berry’s work—a conversation “among a particular group of persons, over time and in a particular place.”  Such a conversation can never hope to be finished, only interrupted and picked up again—but here we have a very good beginning.

Continue Reading…

 

“A Conversation With the History of a Place”

A Review of
Mannahatta:
A Natural History of New York City.
By
Eric Sanderson.

Reviewed by Brent Aldrich.

Mannahatta:
A Natural History of New York City.
Eric Sanderson.
Hardback: Abrams, 2009.
Buy now: [ Amazon ]

My observations and conclusions thus far sum up to this: In our American cities, we need all kinds of diversity, intricately mingled in mutual support. We need this so city life can work decently and constructively, and so the people of cities can sustain (and further develop) their society and civilization.
— Jane Jacobs,  Death and Life of Great American Cities, 137

Mannahatta - Eric SandersonJane Jacobs’ Manhattan in the 1960s was already a megalopolis with approximately the 1.6 million people that live there today. The marks of a healthy city community she identified – such as density, diversified uses of spaces, and neighborhoods –   turn out to be equally useful when describing natural ecologies, namely the pre-colonial island of Mannahatta, home to at least fifty-five distinct “ecological communities” of old-growth forests, salt marshes, swamps and the like, several hundred plant and animal species, and a human population of between two- and six-hundred people, the Lenape. The monumental task of assembling a vision of Manhattan as Henry Hudson and company would have first seen it on September 12, 1609 has been the task of Eric Sanderson, a landscape ecologist based out of the Wildlife Conservation Society at the Bronx Zoo. Mannahatta: A Natural History of New York City is the resulting book chronicling years of research and map-making, and filled out with extensive illustrations of the verdant green of Mannahatta (that’s right) by Markley Boyer, which are a striking contrast when acting as diptychs with bird’s-eye photographs of present-day Manhattan.

Continue Reading…

 

“Making Room For Conversation
Between Science and Theology”

A Review of
Theology in the Context of Science.
By John Polkinghorne.

Reviewed by Brandon
( Blogger, The Discarded Image).


Theology in the Context of Science.
John Polkinghorne.
Hardback: Yale UP, 2009.
Buy now: [ Amazon ]

John Polkinghorne - Theology in the Context of ScienceI’m not a scientist.  I admit to reading voraciously just about anything I can in science, just so as long as it does not require adding another specialty to my life.  As purely an amateur (as in, from the French, am?re, meaning, “to love”), I enjoy reading New Scientist and Scientific American, but I’m not likely to discover the Higgs boson.  So when I picked up Theology in the Context of Science—written by the famous physicist turned priest, John Polkinghorne—I was interested in what he had to say about the relationship between theology and science, and what theology in the context of science would look like.

Most-likely, any card-carrying member of new atheism would not appreciate the idea of theology and science in dialogue.  (I can hear Richard Dawkins fuming over such accommodationism right now.)  In some sense, I can understand why.  Nevertheless, for those that pit science against God or God against science, Polkinghorne’s book is a good reminder that not all humans have the same starting point; not a single person has the authority to extinguish the voice of the other.

Continue Reading…

 


Give your friends a free subscription to The Englewood Review of Books this Christmas season, and both you and your friends will be entered to win free books!

We’re giving away 25 books, with the top prize valued at over $100!

Enter now:

http://englewoodreview.org/win-free-books-advent-2009/

Full details are available on the above link…
(Contest ends at Noon on Dec 31, 2009)

Christmas Banner

 

A Brief Review of

Witnessing Suburbia:
Conservatives and Christian Youth Culture
.
Eileen Luhr.

Paperback: U of California Press, 2009.
Buy now: [ Amazon ]

Reviewed by Chris Smith.

“I’m rockin’ the suburbs
Just like Quiet Riot did
I’m rockin’ the suburbs
Except that they were talented
I’m rockin’ the suburbs…”
— Ben Folds

The story that Eileen Luhr tells in her new book Witnessing Suburbia: Conservatives and Christian Youth Culture is a familiar one for me, because it was in essence the story in which I grew up.  This story is described by Luhr in the book’s introduction:

This book is a history of the suburbanization of evangelicalism and the “Christianization” of popular culture – twin pillars of the conservative shift in national politics during the Reagan-Bush era … [It] contrasts the old Christian Right – with its dogmatic resistance to youth culture per se – and the new “rock” evangelicalism, which embraced cutting-edge cultural forms and media in order to institute moral reform and broaden the impact of its proselytizing efforts.  These processes, in turn, abetted a hegemonic conservative politics grounded in uniting possessive individualism with home-centered “traditional values” (5).

Although Witnessing Suburbia is intended largely for academic audiences, Luhr tells the basic narrative in a compelling and very readable fashion, and we would do well to read it carefully and reflect on it in light of the Gospel of Jesus Christ.  There are many disturbing themes that Luhr unmasks here, but in short we begin to see the many syncretisms of American evangelicalism in the eighties and nineties – inextricably mixing the Christian faith up with right-wing politics, individualistic consumerism and family-based traditionalism.

As mentioned at the beginning of this review, I grew up in this era (graduating high school in 1992) and to a large extent was a Christian swept up in the youth culture of the times.   For several years, the primary genre of music that I enjoyed was Christian Heavy Metal (incidentally the subject of one of the book’s finest chapters).  Although I was on the fringes of this movement, I never really got sucked into the mainstream of Christian youth culture, and indeed it was perhaps my familiarity with the broader youth culture (particularly punk music, and its frankness in revealing the powers that be) that help me resist such an assimilation.  I’m sure it helped too that I never exactly fit the economic mold of middle-class suburban culture.  Luhr’s work here is brilliant, illuminating the dark depths of a history that has gone largely unnoticed.  I hope that it will spur in Christian circles much reflection on the Gospel and culture.  Luhr’s narrative in Witnessing Suburbia reveals a lot of “being conformed to the pattern of the world” (Rom 12:2) in recent evangelicalism, and in illuminating this cultural domestication, it has the potential to nudge us in the direction of transformation and the renewal of our minds.